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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Severed texts : aspects of aestheticization in Roland Barthes’ post-structural writings Blais, Joann M.


This thesis contributes to a discussion of the specificity of Roland Barthes' post-structural theorizing by examining some of the themes and techniques of aestheticization running through his writing--reverie, pleasure, "perversion," and the hyper-textualization of the human subject and culture. Following this thread/hypothesis of aestheticization, the thesis focuses upon changing notions of the human subject and textuality presented in Barthes' writings from "The Death of the Author" (1968) until Camera Lucida (1980). The opening chapter discusses aestheticizing and decadent discourses in nineteenth century French and English literary traditions, identifies relevant intertexts, and proposes a set of key themes in aestheticizing discourses--the rejection of the natural, the quest for separation and mediation expressed in a valorization of artifice, aesthetic pleasure, private experience, and anti-utilitarian, anti-bourgeois values. The second chapter lays out the myth of an alienated literary modernity underwriting Barthes' later theorizing. Subsequent chapters follow shifts in notions of subjectivity, textuality, and aestheticizing strategies in most of the major texts produced by Barthes during this period: S/Z, The Empire of Signs, Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes, Fragments of a Lover's Discourse, Camera Lucida, and essays collected in The Rustle of Language and The Responsibility of Forms. The last two chapters follow Barthes' half-ludic struggle with his earlier construction of the subject as public intertext. He dramatically moves away from conventional forms of theorizing into the cultivation of subjectivity, affectivity, and personal culture to escape being captured in the public texts of the cultural Imaginary. Finally, the thesis will consider some of the contributions and consequences of his theories, including whether the cultural skepticism and pose of fatal belatedness underwriting his positions can be maintained.

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